Thursday, February 14, 2008


My six-word memoir (Loves Baseball. Wrong Gender. Writes Instead.) should clue you that I watched the Congressional hearings yesterday. Combined with my love of baseball is the research I did for BOOST, my upcoming novel about girls taking steroids.

What looked like a he said-he said investigation---or witch hunt, depending on your perspective---of Roger Clemens’ alleged steroid use was in truth a check on The Mitchell Report. Following the 2005 publication of Jose Canseco’s book Juiced and the ensuring Congressional hearings, Major League Baseball commissioned former Senator George Mitchell to investigate the use of steroids in baseball.

Some of the players named in the Mitchell Report have admitted to using HGH, steroids, or both. Some have remained silent. Only one player---Roger Clemens---came out forcefully with a denial.

There’s a couple things at play here. The first is the fairness of competition and the purity of the game. If Barry Bonds is pumped up on steroids and hits home runs instead of fly balls off Curt Schilling, where is the fairness in that? If Jason Giambi, who has admitted using steroids and suffered from a pituitary tumor because of it, is so pumped up on the juice that his forearms look like they’re about to explode, where’s the purity in that?

I understand the temptation to use. As a chronic pain sufferer who has never smoked marijuana, I have had times when I was desperate to get some pot to relieve my pain, help me sleep. As someone who is still rehabbing from a shoulder injury, I would love to be on HGH to accelerate recovery.

Sports Illustrated just did an article about an in-line racer whose father started him on the juice when he was only thirteen. A football coach I know told me when he played in college, Winstrol was so widespread among his teammates that they were left out in plain sight in dorm rooms.

The temptation is immense. A teenager wants to build his body and draw the attention of college or pro scouts. A college player wants to get off the bench, or be a star. A pro player on the bubble wants to get good enough to keep from being cut. A very good pro player wants to become great, and thus hit that huge payday.

I just want someone to tell the truth.

The way to stop this cycle is for a sports icon like Roger Clemens to stand up and say, “Yeah, I did it. What did you expect? If one does it, we all have to do it to keep up. Our careers are so short and the rewards so immense, how can I not do it?”

The Mitchell Report made clear the steroid problem is the responsibility of MLB owners, the players’ association, doctors and trainers, and the players’ themselves. We fans are not to be excused. The home run chase between Maguire and Sosa revived baseball after the strike almost killed it. We want power and speed and performance. I want David Ortiz to be clean and pure but I also want him to jack homeruns.

Andy Pettitte, a close friend of Roger Clemens, gave testimony and an affidavit that Clemens told him he took HGH. Pettitte was devastated to have to give this testimony but, as a Christian, he said he was compelled to tell the truth. Not only did Pettitte stipulate to McNamee’s accusation that he injected Pettitte with HGH in 2002, he confessed—under no duress—to using it in 2004 (not with McNamee). He didn’t have to say anything about the second use but he told congressional investigators that “someday he would stand before God” and he wanted to be truthful about all his use.

Assuming Clemens did use steroids, as the evidence suggests, that he pitched so well deep into his forties is likely a result of illegal performance enhancement. Contrast him with another excellent pitcher, Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres. Maddux has also has pitched into his forties, not with power like Clemens, but due to experience, wisdom, and guile.

It seems to me, as we “walk out our salvation with fear and trembling,” we should follow the Maddux example and not the Clemens-Bonds model. Spiritual maturity brings wisdom, experience, craftiness which not only keep us in the game but---like Greg Maddux with his young teammates—helps us model how to do it clean.

Please guys---just tell the truth. I’ll forgive you. And I’ll cheer and cheer and cheer!


Mike Dellosso said...

Kathy, thanks for this great post. You mention a couple things that really struck me. One, we fans are partially to blame for this mess. The money we throw at these athletes and the performances we cry for are a large part of the problem. Not that that excuses anyone. Of course not, they are grown men who make their own decisions but we have to admit they are decisions based, at least a bit, on the expectations of the fans.

Secondly, Andy Pettitte. Wow, what a model to follow. Yes, he did wrong, he cheated, and that should be condemned, but he also did the RIGHT thing in owning up to it. I'm always preaching at my daughters to DO THE RIGHT THING. It's not always the easy thing or the quickest thing or the most painless thing, but it's the right thing and it's the thing that honors God. I admire Pettitte for what he did (the confessing, not the using) and hope old and young alike follow his example of 'fessing up when a wrong is done.

Mike said...


Leah suggested I read this blog post about Clemens. I agree that Clemens would be much better off being honest. At this point, with his career over and his salary paid, neither his career nor any of his earnings are at stake. Only his legacy and reputation are. But his attempt to restore his legacy by lying is futile, it only makes public opinion of him worse, and it puts him at risk for going to jail for perjury. For all these reasons, attempting to lie his way out of this is very irrational. He's got a lot to lose and anything he could gain is a long shot. I agree wholeheartedly that honesty is his best option, not only morally, but logically speaking.

Where I disagree with you is where you say that fans are to blame and site the Sosa/McGwire home run chase. As a fan, I do not feel in any way responsible, and would gladly trade any of these record chasing seasons away if it meant the game of baseball would have been clean all this time.

Additionally, I think that WAAYYY to much credit is given to Sosa, McGwire, et al. for restoring baseball fandom after the strike. Although the 98 season was exciting, I don't think it did a whole lot to turn a non-fan into a fan or a passive fan into a superfan. I think it gave people a reason to pay attention for the time being and that's it. It was more fleeting excitement than it was lasting excitement.

I do however feel that the late 90's gave us a much more obvious, much more glaring thing that drew a much bigger interest in baseball out of casual fans, including myself, and gave a lot of people a much bigger reason to follow the league as a whole. And I firmly believe that this thing is to thank for bringing baseball back to the limelight after the strike, not the home run record chases. If you haven't figured out what I am referring to, it is the creation and emergence of internet based fantasy baseball leagues. It bothers me that everyone credits Mark McGwire for restoring baseball, when fantasy baseball leagues are what deserve the credit.

Outside of that point, I agree with everything you say about Clemens and Pettite. Just wanted to point that out and see what you thought.


Kathryn Mackel said...

Thanks, Mike D. for checking in. It's scary that you, with three daughters, also have to be concerned with the whole performance-enhancement thing. As my research showed, steroid use among females is low, except for body builders and some track athletes. But in my book BOOST (and I'm not 'boosting' it right's out this summer), I explore the bigger issue of young athletes under tremendous pressure to get better. The steroids are just a plot point to explore what both talented male and female athletes an increasingly young age.

Kathryn Mackel said...

Hey Mike S., thanks for checking in. It has never occurred to me that fantasy baseball had anything to do with the resurgence of baseball but, now that you've brought up this point, I think it's brilliant and it's very likely right! I've always been a baseball fan, and always preferred 'small ball' to power ball but fantasy baseball opened my world up to the sport as a whole. Fantasy moved my appreciation beyond the AL East so that I tuned into players say...on the Diamondbacks...not just for their stats (though some fantasy players do) but for their "game." And when that game is clean, nothing beats it!